Final Project Proposal - Challenging Human Exceptionalism through Empedoclean Notions of Universal Kinship and Metempsychosis

I recently published and presented a piece at NYU on Empedocles, a pre-Socratic who argued towards an ecological perspective of human situatedness in the wider biosphere (or perhaps even just among all things which have being). 

For my final project I'd like to first set out Empedocles' basic notions, likely borrowing on my previous work, and discuss both universal kinship and metempsychosis as well as they ways Empedocles' gets to these ideas. 

To explain each of these briefly, metempsychosis is a sort of transfering of the soul, where a soul can be reincarnated as different ontological items through lives. This goes along then with universal kinship, which is the notion that we, as ensouled humans, share a deep bond with all other ensouled things, and as such should treat them accordingly. This is somewhat complicated by Empedocles' hylozoism, a view which holds that all things made of the elements, which on this view is everything, is alive. There should be alot to explore here. 

Once I've laid these notions out I want to take up a bunch of different relationships and practices which we've studied in this class and examine them through a neo-Empedoclean lens. This would include a discussion on carbon, pencils, forestry, entanglement insofar that it offers a new embedded perspective, bread and yeast, mycological communities, and non-human animals, perhaps in particular those on the Zodiac. In examining these topics, I'd want to reframe our human practices from one of exceptionalism, where we view ourselves as detached and superior to our environments, to one of human situatedness, where we recognize that we are as much as part of our environment as any rock, plant or cow. 

I expect that if we take universal kinship seriously, we'll need to radically shift our current arboral practices, the ways in which we treat-nonhuman animals, the ways in which we think of mycological networks, and perhaps the ways in which we relate to our physical environment. 

I'll draw from the following text, which is just the fragments of Empedocles, though I might also use a little material from Donna Haraway, as well as some stuff from class: 

Barnes, Jonathan. 2001. Early Greek philosophy. London: Penguin.

Haraway, Donna Jeanne. 2003. The Companion Species Manifesto : Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness. Chicago, Ill. : Bristol :Prickly Paradigm ; University Presses Marketing.